Sex offender law concerns still remain

Another revision of the Nevada attorney general's position on a new sex offender law has left critics of the law confused " and glad that a federal judge has blocked enforcement of the law pending further review.

The latest position change was sent Thursday by Deputy Attorney General Binu Palal to Maggie McLetchie of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, prompting McLetchie to say the attorney general "is really falling down on the job" because of the lack of clarity.

Palal's letter Thursday said the attorney general wouldn't try to retroactively enforce a section of the new law barring certain sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare facility.

That's a change from a letter sent Wednesday by Palal, telling McLetchie that no provisions of the new law, SB471, would be applied retroactively.

"This is incredibly frustrating. It's impossible to get any clarity," McLetchie said, adding that given the confusion it's a good thing that a preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge James Mahan prevents enforcement of the new law.

McLetchie said the ACLU supports tough laws against sex offenders, but also believes that provisions of SB471 can't be applied retroactively and in any case should apply to offenders convicted of the most serious crimes.

SB471 isn't the only new law dealing with sex offenders that's undergoing review. A related measure, AB579 dealing with juvenile offenders, will be analyzed by the Nevada Supreme Court, and the 2009 state Legislature also is expected to study it.

The reviews follow a ruling by Clark County Family Court Judge William Voy that part of the law is unconstitutional. AB579, based on the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act passed in 2006, included many teenage sex offenders 14 and older with adults under requirements for sex offender registration and community notification.

The federal law, named for a six-year-old who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall in 1981 and later found slain, cut off certain grant funds to states unless they included in their registries juveniles who committed sex offenses when they were as young as 14.

The registration provision has been criticized by Human Rights Watch, a leading human rights group, which says no juveniles " and no other offenders considered to pose low future risk " should be registered.

Lawyers for the Clark County juvenile public defender's office and for the ACLU of Nevada sought the ruling from Voy, arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.

Voy held that the law section dealing with juvenile offenders violates constitutional due process guarantees because it lacks a rational basis for extending to 14-year-olds but not to someone who may be younger but more dangerous.


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